“Another Zoom??” said my 7-year-old daughter, rolling her eyes as I emerged from the office after three calls that morning.
“Yes, but I promise I’ll be done soon for the day, and I’ll take a look at your schoolwork.”
“You have too many calls, mommy. I guess you just don’t have time for me.”
Ouch. Way to stick it to me, but I couldn’t blame her.
And I was too tired to say anything back. The morning had already exhausted me, and my energy had drained from my body.
As experts have been telling us, this is the new norm for most working professionals since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Our brains are working harder than ever to process the dissonance we experience from interacting in the synthetic environment of virtual meetings.
All those subtleties that we typically rely on as emotional cues in our face-to-face conversations are muted, making it more difficult for our brains to reconcile how we’re relating to the person on the other end.
The facial expressions, the awkward pauses, the body language, and tonality of a voice…what do they mean??
So, in other words, – Zoom fatigue is emotionally draining us.
And guess what else is? Mom guilt.
After all, in my daughter’s eyes, I was dedicating larger blocks of focused attention for meetings, compared to the handful of minutes that I’d occasionally glance over to talk through her lessons.
Guilt can be one of the greatest destroyers of emotional energy. It leads to more stress and anxiety, activating your body’s fight-or-flight response that keeps you in a heightened state of awareness.
My conscience couldn’t stop telling me that I was disappointing her each time if I couldn’t be there to help her with her schoolwork.
No wonder I was exhausted, and something had to change. Here are three things that helped me put things in perspective so I could reclaim my energy.
1. Less face time.
Is video always necessary? Probably not, but its accessibility makes it an easy way to treat it as a default to connect with the outside world. Whether you’re taking calls with a work colleague or your best friend, it’s essential to stay mindful of how often you are using it.
If you’re excessively grasping for virtual connections to replace in-person interactions, consider setting a boundary to minimize how often you are on video. For myself, I started to schedule one Zoom call a day while making the rest of my communications through a phone call, email, or texting. And remember, if you’re feeling tired, the other person likely is too and may gladly welcome the change.
2. Setting expectations.
When you’re juggling work and homeschooling, guilt will inevitably come up if you feel as if you didn’t meet the expectation of your child. But remember – guilt is a normal human experience. After all, you have a conscience that influences how you feel for the people you love. It only becomes problematic when you stay consumed with guilt, adding more anxiety and stress to you every day.
Set mutual expectations with your child of how the day will go, whether that’s through a verbal understanding or a whiteboard with a loose schedule written out. Each family communicates differently, so it’s important to find what works best for you. The key element is keeping an open dialogue about both of your needs to minimize the possibility of it being one-sided.
3. Accept you can’t do it all.
As moms, we’re called to context-switch and multitask now more than ever. During this period, we simply cannot ignore the fact that more energy is being expended each time we switch between our roles as a parent and a working professional.
Release the expectation that you have to do it seamlessly and perfectly, set realistic expectations for yourself, and accept your humanity. Most importantly, give yourself compassion and grace –
You’re doing your best, and that’s all that your family can ask for.